Are there any benefits? What about risks?

By | March 12, 2024

It doesn’t take much LSD, short for lysergic acid diethylamide, to substantially alter a person’s state of consciousness.

Compared to many other substances, the amounts are very small, says Dr. Volker Auwärter, director of the forensic toxicology laboratory at the University Medical Center of Freiburg in Germany: “More than 50 to 100 micrograms is said to be a psychedelic dose. “

The European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) calls the hallucinogen “one of the most powerful drugs known”.

But what happens if you reduce the dose significantly – to about 10 micrograms? Let’s review the facts about LSD microdosing:

Claim: Taking small amounts of LSD is safe.

Research: Possible side effects are still unclear.

Facts: Someone microdosing LSD typically takes about 10 micrograms, just a tenth or twentieth of the amount normally taken for a “trip” or psychedelic experience, says Dr. Felix Müller, deputy chief medical officer at the University’s Psychiatric Clinics. Basel in Switzerland, where he resides. in charge of psychedelic therapy.

However, unlike people who use psychedelic drugs in higher doses, microdosers usually take another dose after a few days, says Müller, who has been researching LSD for about a decade.

Randomized controlled microdosing trials investigate the regular ingestion of small amounts of psychedelic substances – approximately every three days over an extended period of time.

What does this mean in terms of possible risks?

As with other hallucinogens, dependence on LSD does not occur, says the EMCDDA. According to Auwärter, even at high doses there is no risk of poisoning in the sense of toxic injuries to internal organs.

The risks that do exist, Müller says, relate more to mental than physical health, adding that it has not yet been definitively determined whether this also applies to LSD microdosing. “[LSD microdosing] is a relatively recent phenomenon,” he notes. “And it is certainly conceivable that repeated use is a completely different story.”

Müller points out that pharmacologists once suspected that LSD might cause changes in the heart valves, as had happened several years ago with then-available drugs that bound to and activated the same receptor in the body.

Accordingly, Dr. Matthias Liechti, director of the Department of Clinical Pharmacology and Toxicology at the University Hospital of Basel and head of the psychopharmacology research group of the Department of Biomedicine, says that studies should investigate the possible side effects on heart valve function of regular, months-long LSD use.

In a randomized controlled trial of the effects of microdosed LSD on healthy adult men, recently published in the journal Biological Psychiatry, researchers from the University of Auckland’s School of Pharmacy conclude that microdosing “appears relatively safe… despite the risk of anxiety .”

However, Müller warns that such studies are few and short-lived, expressing surprise that people – “relatively naive” – would become involved in LSD microdosing. After all, it’s a bit like taking a drug that hasn’t yet been approved for use because it’s still being tested for side effects.

What other risks are there?

LSD microdosers are not sure how much they are actually taking. “Whether it is microdosed or taken in the ‘classic’ way, the content of the active pharmaceutical ingredient is never really known,” says Müller, explaining that the only way to find out is to have it tested in an addiction prevention center.

“LSD is usually sold after being dripped onto plotter paper – similar to blotter paper – that has been cut into squares,” says Müller. A square usually contains doses of 100 or 200 micrograms. Microdosers cut the paper squares into smaller pieces.

Dosing this way is “of course inaccurate,” says Müller, just as when LSD is sold dissolved in water or alcohol – for example 100 micrograms per drop – and further diluted into microdoses.

While Müller doesn’t see this as physically dangerous – “extremely high doses” are needed for LSD to become problematic – he says the mental health effects of higher doses are stronger and last longer.

“If you microdose, it is of course possible to be way off the mark,” he warns.

Claim: Microdosed LSD improves concentration and creativity.

Research: Studies have not proven this.

Facts: Clinical evidence that small doses of LSD can boost concentration and creativity and help combat depression and anxiety disorders is scarce.

“Due to the small number of controlled studies that have been done, there is scant data on the effects of LSD microdosing,” notes Liechti, who says the immediate effects are similar to, but weaker than, those of high doses.

While there is evidence of improved well-being in subjects given a small dose of LSD compared to those given a placebo, “this is only on the day of treatment, not after,” says Liechti.

Furthermore, due to the lack of research results, nothing can yet be said about the extent to which – if at all – LSD microdosing alleviates depression and anxiety, he adds. And the University of Auckland study showed no significant effect on creativity.

Reports of improved mood and cognitive functioning from LSD microdosers have received only limited support in randomized controlled trials to date, the New Zealand researchers said, and none have found lasting effects in these areas with repeated use of small amounts of LSD .

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